How to attract attention
Academic and industry leader Janet Sperstad, faculty staff at Madison College, spends the majority of her time in the lecture hall moulding the minds of the next generation of event planners. At IMEX Frankfurt 2023, she’s expanding the minds of seasoned event professionals. Her education session, ‘How to attract attention’, got to the heart of psychological safety and event design.
The calm, blue environment of the IMEX Ocean room, located in the aptly named Inspiration Hub in Hall 9, was the perfect backdrop for the subject of attracting attention. The nautical-themed education room is designed to allow the audience to relax and engage. Transforming brains into a sponges for information.
So, what drives attention? Janet identified two areas that pique interest in our brains: threat and reward. Threat can encompass many things including curiosity and unfamiliar sensations. Loud noises, new smells and bright lights can all trigger the threat response in our brains, which in turn heightens cortisol making us more likely to feel stressed and less likely to pay attention.
Janet emphasised that cortisol levels need to be minimised to create space for exploration and learning. We can achieve this by triggering reward, the second area that piques interest in our brains.
Reward includes psychological safety and a feeling of belonging. “Your brain is like an eight-year-old,” Janet explained, “it doesn’t like feeling left out.” This reward signal in our brains decreases cortisol and increases dopamine, a happy hormone, making us more open to paying attention to what’s around us.
A key indication of great event design is engagement. Janet’s teachings on how we psychologically react to stimulus create a bedrock of information to base future event design on.